The American Pit Bull Terrier is a well-known pitbull-type dog breed.
Many owners choose to crop their dog’s ears, leading to the assumption that most American Pit Bull Terriers have naturally erect ears — but that is not the case. In fact, this dog has many different ear shapes.
Do American Pit Bull Terriers Have Pointed Ears?
American Pit Bull Terriers do not all have pointed ears. Puppies have drop or rosebud ears. Adult ears become more proportionate and, based on the pinna structure, may stand at a natural full-prick, half-prick, or in a rosebud curl. Some have cropped ears, resulting in a small, erect, pointed ear.
Because the American Pit Bull Terrier and other pitbull-type breeds have been bred and changed for hundreds of years, there’s quite a bit of variation in their appearance.
In this article, I’ll discuss the different ear shapes of the breed and the breed standard regarding the ears of the American Pit Bull Terrier. I’ll also touch on ear cropping and how ears are important to canine communication.
The American Pit Bull Terrier and Ear Shapes
The American Pit Bull Terrier doesn’t have one single acceptable look — some are lean, others are more muscular.
The same applies to the breed’s ears, as they can differ in both size and shape. In fact, the main defining feature of a pit bull is not its ears, but its wide, powerful jaw.
American Pit Bull Terrier Puppy Ears
As puppies, the American Pit Bull Terrier often has drop ears, similar to that of a young Labrador Retriever.
Drop ears appear as soft, folded flaps of skin that gently fold over. This ear shape is also referred to as “rosebud.” On young puppies, it sometimes creates a curious, confused, or inquisitive look to the pooch.
Additionally, the American Pit Bull Terrier puppy’s ears often appear disproportionate to their head size. No worries, however, as the dog will eventually grow into them.
Adult American Pit Bull Terrier Ear Types
The American Pit Bull Terrier’s ears as an adult come in a few different styles:
This ear type is the result of surgical alteration. The ears appear smaller than normal and stand erect. These ears appear pointed.
These ears are natural and look like pricked ears with a small skin flap folded over at the top.
Rose ears are similar to half-prick ears, except they fold slightly backward, revealing part of the fleshy inner area of the ear.
Full Prick Ears
These natural ears stand erect on their own without surgical intervention. They often appear pointed.
No matter which type of ear your adult American Pit Bull Terrier has, they’re likely to be of small to medium size and set high atop the head.
Whether or not a dog’s ears stand erect on their own depends on the ear structure, particularly the structure of the “pinna.”
Canine Ear Structure
You’ve likely noticed that some canines have floppy ears, while others have erect, pointed ears — think a Basset Hound compared to an Alaskan Malamute. The ears among pitbull-type breeds vary, even in the same breed. This is due to the structure of the ear.
The pinna is the part of the ear that’s composed of cartilage. It’s the “flap” part of the ear that you lift to look inside or clean your dog’s ears.
The pinna differs from breed to breed. Using my earlier example, the Basset Hound has a long, flexible pinna, causing floppy, drop ears.
However, in Alaskan Malamutes, the pinna is short and rigid, creating rigid, erect ears.
Because the American Pit Bull Terrier contains genes from a few different breeds, they can look quite different from one another due to variations in the pinna.
As puppies, the pinna is soft and flexible, which is why American Pit Bull Terrier puppies have drop or rosebud ears while they’re young. As they grow — roughly around ten weeks of age — the pinna becomes more firm and rigid, thus the ears begin to stand.
Again, this is not the same in all cases — some pitbull-type breeds retain the floppy-eared look.
Cropped Ears vs. Full Prick Ears
Much of the general public (particularly those unfamiliar with the pitbull-type breeds) see an American Pit Bull Terrier with natural, full prick ears and assume that the dog’s ears have been surgically altered. That is not always the case.
Full prick ears and cropped ears look significantly different, particularly in size.
Full prick ears stand naturally erect without surgical intervention — think German Shepherd and Siberian Husky ears, albeit a bit smaller. Cropped ears, however, tend to be much smaller than natural, full prick ears.
American Pit Bull Terrier Breed Standard Regarding Ears
There are no rigid standards for how the ears should look when it comes to the American Pit Bull Terrier’s ears. With that said, the United Kennel Club’s breed standard for the American Pit Bull Terrier recommends that ears be set high — natural or cropped. There is no ideal preference, although there are some ear shapes that are undesirable in the breed, including:
- Prick ears
- Flat ears
- Wide ears
Even still, these types of ears do not automatically disqualify the breed, and they’re acknowledged as a common characteristic among the breed.
Ear Cropping in American Pit Bull Terriers
Ear cropping in canines is a surgical alteration made to the ears while the dogs are still young puppies. Most consider it a strictly cosmetic procedure, although some organizations claim that it’s necessary for the health and well-being of the dog.
The result of ear cropping is pointed, erect ears that may appear somewhat natural, although they’re typically much smaller in size than a natural, full prick ear. It’s a common procedure among American Pit Bull Terriers and other pitbull-type breeds.
That being said, canine ear cropping is a controversial practice.
American Pit Bull Terriers used to have their ears cropped to prevent them from being bitten or torn off while fighting in the pit.
Since most American Pit Bull Terriers are companion animals today, many animal rights activists feel that ear cropping is now an unnecessary form of mutilation.
Some organizations, however, disagree. They believe that cropping a dog’s ears reduces the risk of infection. Studies seem to contradict that claim, as ear cropping procedures may actually lead to infection, instead of preventing it.
Other claims include that cropping is necessary for hunting dogs to prevent the ears from being bitten by animals. In fact, the American Kennel Club is one organization that believes in ear cropping for this reason — and they also claim that the procedure helps the dog hear better.
Ear cropping is now prohibited in most European countries.
They stand by their opinion, stating that the procedure causes unnecessary and avoidable pain and discomfort even years later.
It’s also worth considering how important a dog’s ears are for communication and body language. Cropping your American Pit Bull Terrier’s ears can make it challenging for them to get their message across to both dogs and humans.
American Pit Bull Terrier Ears and Canine Communication
All dogs, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, may change the position of their ears based on how they’re feeling. When your pup feels alert, dominant, or submissive, the look of the ears may subtly change.
Your American Pit Bull Terrier may prick his ears high if he sees, hears, or smells a person, car, animal, or object that interests him. If you watch closely, you’ll notice the ears rotating toward the source of the sound.
Additionally, the neck may slightly tilt, and there may be a look of curiosity or concern on your American Pit Bull Terrier’s face.
This indicates that he’s confused about what he hears and is trying to gain more information. Is it a threat? Or just a person passing by?
American Pit Bull Terriers aren’t naturally submissive animals. They’re willful and sure of themselves, so it takes a strong, calm, assertive owner to handle one.
If you notice your American Pit Bull Terrier pricking up their ears while standing still with their body slightly forward while maintaining eye contact, then it’s trying to show dominance.
This body language makes the dog appear larger, thus it’s an attempt to intimidate a person or other animal.
Whether your American Pit Bull Terrier has cropped, full prick, rosebud, or half-pricked ears, if they’re in a submissive position, the ears will move backward and lie flat against the head.
This gesture may also indicate worry, fear, or even aggression, depending on the overall body language.
Not all American Pit Bull Terriers look exactly the same. Besides color, size, and muscularity, this breed also has ear shapes that differ. Some have tiny ears without any “floppiness,” whereas others have half-prick ears that slightly fold over. Many American Pit Bull Terrier owners also crop their dog’s ears, giving them an erect, pointed appearance.
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